How to become a nursery worker: Lucy's story

Meet Lucy, 18, a nursery practitioner apprentice. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

Lucy at work in the nursery, holding a tablet.
"You don’t always get a job where you can spend the whole day laughing."

How would you describe your job?

I look after young children in a nursery. It’s amazing. It’s so much fun. There is never a dull moment. I’m on my feet all day. We are playing and learning. In the morning we organise breakfast, get nappies ready and open the garden. Sometimes we sit down as a group and sing nursery rhymes, look through stories and do counting. We also do arts and crafts. We learn through play. We are developing children's language. It’s a learning journey.

What key skills do you use?

A lot of communication. We work as a team as well. The language I use, talking at the same level as the child so they can understand, is also important. We also work together with the parents to ensure that the children are happy and are getting the support they need.

I also need to be organised. We keep track of nappy changes, teething gel, how they are eating etc. Everything is recorded so the parents know what is going on at nursery. We also need a lot of patience, as children can get emotional. Instead of getting cross, I talk to them softly and distract them.

Was this what you always wanted to do?

I enjoy being with my nieces and nephews so much, and realised how nice would it be to do a job that I love and get to see other people’s children developing and create those observations so their parents can see as well.

What subject do you draw on from school?

I studied Child Development. It enabled me to understand that you don’t just come into the nursery and play all day, there’s a lot of responsibility.

How did you get this job?

I studied Maths, English, Child Development, Geography, History and French. Then I went straight into sixth form for six months, then I had a back operation, so I was off for nine weeks. It was hard to catch up but, because I fell behind, I was looking for other options. Then I found this apprenticeship. I played with the children as part of the interview and they could see that I was good with them.

Was it a smooth ride?

It is an exhausting job but 100% worth it. You don’t always get a job where you can spend the whole day laughing. Children are so much fun! You can have days that are more challenging, but that’s the fun of it.

Lucy showing one of the children a toy frog
Lucy helps the children to learn through play

Top tips

  • Try work experience. Stay and play for a while, because there are so many aspects to this job and you’ve got to be willing to do all of them (including changing nappies)

  • There are so many different options regarding getting qualified and it’s best to look into all of them

  • Be patient, be understanding and be positive, as that affects the children.

What to expect if you want to be a nursery worker

You might start out as a student or nursery assistant whilst you work towards your Level 2 qualification to be a nursery worker.

  • Nursery worker salary: £14,000 to £24,000 per year
  • Nursery working hours: 38 to 40 hours per week
  • Typical entry requirements: You'll usually need GCSEs (or equivalent) in Maths and English to start as a nursery assistant. Experience of working with young children will also help. You can apply directly for nursery worker job if you've got experience of working with young children and a qualification in childcare. There are a number of college courses that can be useful, for example, a Level 2 Certificate in Childcare and Education or a Level 3 Diploma in Early Years Education and Care (Early Years Educator). Some nurseries may offer the opportunity to complete an apprenticeship like Lucy's.

This information is a guide (source: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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